The New Zealand men’s hockey team have started their Olympic campaign with a 3-2 loss to India in stifling heat at Tokyo’s Oi Hockey Stadium.
The Pool A match between the ninth-ranked Kiwis and the fifth-ranked Indian side finished the way of the rankings despite a late comeback from New Zealand including four penalty corners in the last three minutes.
New Zealand captain Blair Tarrant was disappointed the team had lost the penalty corner contest.
“We knew the penalty corner battle was going to be massive in this tournament and we had to win it.
Tarrant was pleased his side fought back in the final quarter but they know they can’t leave it that late in future games.
“We always push well in the last quarter but we can’t leave it late. We have to get ahead and build scoreboard pressure.”
New Zealand opening the scoring today in the sixth minute with a well-taken penalty corner drag flick from Kane Russell that flew into the top left of the goal.
India equalised four minutes later after four-time Olympian Shea McAleese saved a penalty corner on the line with his body, and Rupinder Pal Singh sent the subsequent penalty stroke in with bullet-like speed.
Despite four more penalty corners from the Kiwis, the teams were tied at 1-1 at the first quarter break.
India looked more threatening in the second quarter and eventually went ahead just four minutes before halftime with a cleverly taken penalty corner from Harmanpreet Singh. The corner was awarded after a lengthy video referral to see whether a foot from Hugo Inglis was inside or outside the circle.
The score stayed at 2-1 until the halftime break but it was only minutes into the second spell before Harmanpreet Singh was on the scoreboard again with a penalty corner that rocketed into the goal.
The Kiwis got a much-needed goal with a couple of minutes left in the third quarter through a nice touch from Stephen Jenness after Nick Wilson had entered the circle along the baseline and found his fellow striker on the spot.
Despite a couple of late penalty corners for New Zealand, one involving possibly the longest referral in the game’s history, that was where the score stayed with a 3-2 victory to India.
India 3 (Rupinder Pal Singh 10 min, Harmanpreet Singh 26 and 33 min)
New Zealand 2 (Kane Russell 6 min, Stephen Jenness 43 min). Halftime: 2-1 India
Next up the New Zealand men face eighth-ranked Spain at 11.45pm (NZ time) tomorrow followed by the home side Japan at 2.45pm on Tuesday.
New Zealand Men:
Steve Edwards (North Harbour); Leon Hayward (GK), Jared Panchia (Auckland); Nic Woods (Waikato); Sean Findlay, Shea McAleese, Dylan Thomas (Hawke’s Bay); Nick Wilson (Manawatu); Stephen Jenness, Dane Lett, Jacob Smith (Wellington); Sam Lane (Canterbury); Hugo Inglis, Nick Ross, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant (Otago).